Wednesday, October 31, 2007

More Gender Lessons From Cosmo

Yesterday's post explored some lessons we can glean from the glossy pages of Cosmo.

That list was not comprehensive. Oh yes, there are more:

1. For a man to think you're sexy, you have to be medium sexy.

If you're too sexy you run the risk of being skanky. If you're not sexy enough you run the risk of being a frigid prude. To men. Of course.

This lesson can be learned from the "Do Guys Think You're Sexy?" quiz at the end of the magazine. What is interesting is that if you score too highly (as being too sexy) you get this admonishment from a psychologist: "Your sense of sexual confidence should come mostly from within and not from grabbing guys' attention."

Yes. I agree.

Dear Cosmo,

See the above statement. Rinse and repeat.


2. From "Bachelor Bonanza 2007" we learn that it's okay to see men as sex objects. You know, the way magazines' targeted toward view women as mere sex objects. True equality, folks!

In this issue, we get a spread of the "sexiest single guys in the US"! They even have internet usernames so we can leave them messages like "U R so hottt!"

Did you know that the sexiest men in this country are mostly white and under 30?

Cool beans.

Anyway, some people might not think that sexualizing men is a particularly bad thing. Some men themselves may not mind, in fact, to be the object of thousands of women's fantasies.

At the same time, this spread has large homoerotic appeal. I think I'll give it to my gay male friends, in fact, as they too would appreciate looking at these young studs.

3. Women think and talk about menstruation, like, all the time. Especially when we're with other women.

That's why, despite this magazine being geared towards women (who presumably are not new to menstruation) us ladies need numerous period tips like "take a steamy bath" and "hit the sack early" to alleviate stress while on your period.


My experience is that women don't really think or talk about their periods unless they are experiencing some sort of large problem with them. And, at this point in our lives, we don't need "period tips" to help us through the traumatic experience of cramps and the like. If something's wrong, I'll go to a health professional and, you know, get real medical advice.

4. Men Are Cheaters. So It's Okay For a Woman to be Dishonest to Catch the Cheaters.

Really? Did Cosmo really approvingly profile a lawyer/businesswoman who runs a business where she catches men cheating? Yep. Wives and girlfriends pay this woman thousands of dollars to go to a bar, spy on, bait, and tempt their "guys" into cheating, to see if they are cheaters.

So, lemme get this straight... you tempt a man with a beautiful, willing woman, who comes onto him and are.... surprised.... that he would ask for the woman's number or buy her a drink? The businesswoman quotes that 95% of the time the men "take the bait."


Not a very flattering view of heterosexual relationships, eh? Men are constantly on the prowl, and women have to resort to dishonesty to "catch" their men being dishonest?

You're killing me Cosmo.

And now, I'm done with you. Until I come across another particularly, um, "noteworthy" issue.

Gender Lessons from Cosmo

Ah, Cosmopolitan magazine (refered to in short as "Cosmo"). I came across this "woman's" magazine the other day at the gym. I admit, I stole it from the gym when I realized the treasure-trove of blog material inside its glossy pages. I'll also admit that I read this magazine from time to time when I was younger- in waiting rooms, on sports trips, when my mother would buy one.

Upon this latest perusal of the magazine (November 2007), I realized that we could all- women and men alike- learn some things about both genders. Let's dive right in, shall we?

Lesson #1: Men Eat Steak. "Girls" Don't.

Yes, I read it in Cosmo so it's true. A tip on how to "snare guys' attention" is to "Share your fondness for steak. Men love girls who like boy food."

I know. Women, in general, don't really eat. Let alone eat steak. But since the most important thing in a "girl's" life is to score a man, you should at least try to eat steak on occasion.

Which brings me to Lesson #2: The Most Important Thing in a Girl's Life is To Score and Keep a Man.

See, what works in initially scoring a man is to act more like a man. What "doesn't work" according to Cosmo is to act like a girl- you know by saying you "like walks on the beach" or using "excessive emoticons and exclamation points" ("They're Annoying")!!!!

You can keep a man by accomodating parts of his behavior that result from a society that views "acting like a girl" as a negative thing. It's all about accomodating pathologies, you see, not dealing with them from their source. For instance, there's an article entitled "When Guys Get the Blues" that admirably addresses the issue of male depression (which is under-diagnosed and under-reported). As the article states, men are "socialized to believe that depression- and worse, admitting to having it- is emasculating." And so if your "dude" exhibits the behaviors of blowing off paying bills, spending excessively, or abusing drugs/alcohol, you should just sort of suck it up, "proceed with caution," and "steer clear of the D word." [D as in depression, not dude, that is]

It's all about keeping your guy, you see. And you could lose your dude if you make him feel like less of a man by talking with him about depression or suggesting that he's depressed.

Get it, dude? Which brings me to:

Lesson #3: Men and Women are in a Perpetual State of Pre-Adulthood!

Men are "guys" and "dudes."

When women and Cosmo writers talk about men they most often call them "guys." No matter the age of the man. When Cosmo writers talk about your boyfriend they call him "your guy." No matter that you can't own human beings in this country anymore!

Meanwhile, women are "chicks" and "girls."

When Cosmo quotes men talking about women over the age of 18, they are quoted as saying things like "this chick" and "some girl." Cosmo writers even refer to other women as "girls." Continuously calling adult women "girls" is problematic, and widespread. It is also far more common than calling men "boys." Perhaps when women stop being infantilized they will begin to be treated as full adults and human beings in society.

Lesson #4: Sometimes, Like, Really Embarassing Things Happen!!!

There is a section in Cosmo entitled "Confessions" where, contrary to the title, women mostly admit embarassing things that happen to them, rather than admit to acts of which they are guilty. You know, like when a woman and her guy were experimenting with handcuffs and totally going "at it" when the guy's mom walked in!

In fact, 3/6 of these confessions involved a woman being exposed in some way.

Flash forward to the next page. There, we have "Guy Confessions" where "men admit to their dirtiest deeds and most shameless scams ever." Yes, everyone, embarassing things happen to boys too! Especially when it comes to their boners, "packages," and boy parts in general. Tee-hee-hee-hee.

Or something.

Oh, and 6/11 of the boy stories involved the guys doing some asshole thing to a woman. Because, you know, guys are creeps.

But we should still aspire to get and keep one! Especially if they're famous.....

Lesson #5: It's a Given that a Woman Would Want any Famous Man No Matter His Looks, Personality, or Trait Other Than His Fame

At least, that's the implication from the "If He Weren't Famous Would You Date Him?" segment featuring famous yet-non-hotties such as Will Ferrell (95% no), Jack Black (90% no), and David Spade (85% no).

But isn't the more pressing question this: Would you date him just because he's famous?

Lesson #6: Fashion and Beauty are of Second-Most Importance in a Girl's Life (the first, of course, being snaring a man)

Many, many pages of Cosmo are dedicated to fashion and beauty tips. (Not counting the ads). I have nothing to say about this other than that these articles utterly, absolutely bore me and I'm not going to waste time reading about eyeliner, purses, and the new in-style shoe to wear this season that most readers probably can't afford anyway.

Lesson #7: "Real-Life" Story: Professional Cheerleading's Dangerous Lesson for Women!

The most compelling piece was an article in the "Real-Life Reads" section entiteld "Tales of an NFL Cheerleader." In this expose, a former NFL cheerleader details the physical ordeals that such cheerleaders endure to earn a coveted spot on the squad. For instance, body weight is strictly monitored (cheerleaders aren't allowed to "cheer" at games in which they are too heavy), hair colorings/cuts are mandated, manicures are expected, and the cheerleaders are paid a shockingly low amount of money ($6/hour).

In short, the professional cheerleading biz, we learn, is a superficial, cruel world. Apparently, already-thin and in-shape women are encouraged to lose weight and remain uber-thin. They starve themselves, subsisting on caffeine and herbal supplements until that next weigh-in. Always, women are expected to be and remain hot.

I found myself questioning what young girls and women are expected to learn from this article!?

The cheerleading biz sees women as valuable insofar as they are hot and thin, and that is just wrong! How dare the professional cheerleading business exploit women in this way!


Lesson #8: Cosmo Ads' Dangerous Lesson for Women!

A compelling part of Cosmo is its advertisements. They feature beautiful, thin women promoting products that will supposedly make women more beautiful. Leafing through a Cosmo, I wonder if the point of the magazine is, in fact, to merely sell ad space. Surely, people don't read the mag for the substance of the articles....

But I digress.

By observing these ads, one can see that modeling is a superficial, cruel world. Already-thin and in-shape women are encouraged to lose weight and remain uber-thin so they will receive contracts to pose in magazines such as Cosmo. They often starve themselves, subsisting on caffeine and herbal supplements until that next photo shoot. Women are expected to be and remain hot.

What are Cosmo readers supposed to think when they view these ads?

The lesson: Women are valuable insofar as they are hot and thin.

Of course, valuing women in such a way is wrong.

But you wouldn't know it from reading Cosmo. You go, girl!

Cosmo contributes to why feminism is still needed. It is not an solution, it's part of the problem. It promotes stereotypes of both women and men, it utterly ignores non-heterosexual orientations, and largely ignores issues of race and class.

Interestingly, Cosmo had a teeny section on one page entitled "Expired Love Advice" of dated suggestions from former Cosmo magazines that Cosmo now seems embarassed about. For instance, a bit of advice for staying married from a 1966 Cosmo read "Be sympathetic... and often silent. A man rarely divorces a wife because she has nothing to say." Some 1968 advice "For Staying Thin" included "Diet on weekdays, when he is less apt to notice. Eat like everyone else on weekends. Exercise, but out of sight."


So you see, Cosmo has made some progress. Unfortunately, they still assume that a woman's first priority in life is finding and keeping a man, and getting and staying hot and thin. Yet I think that feminist ideas are responsible for some of the progress in the type of thinking seen above.

And, contrary to popular belief, feminism is not some sort of enemy. It challenges assumptions and stereotypes based on gender. And that is threatening to some, I suppose. For instance, to those who sell the idea that women should be thin and hot, and that women should be subservient to men.

But generally, feminism gives us the tools to examine how bits of "pop" culture such as Cosmo are harmful to women and men.

Why is that so hard for so many people to swallow?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Waiting, "Dancing," and Laughing

Since I have bragged over the past couple weeks about lucking out and getting tickets to the Ellen Show, I thought I owed it to you all to write about what it was like. I'm sure there are at least a couple Ellen fans out there who will appreciate this....

Mainly, the experience can be summed up in three words: waiting, dancing, and laughing.

1. The Waiting.

A large part of being an audience member of the Ellen Show consists of waiting. We were going to see the 3 p.m. taping and were asked to arrive by noon. Being the eager Ellen fans that we were, we arrived at 11:35. And waited. With the other 300 or so people with guaranteed seats, we waited in the "holding area" which can only be described as some sort of fenced in holding pen for humans.

After checking us in, the staffers moved us all to another waiting area outside, where we watched episodes of Ellen while we waited.

Finally, at around 2:40 or so they took us into the studio to teach us how to be audience members. That is, they told us things that sounded like common sense to me, but that I'm sure some people needed to hear. Like: don't hoot and don't yell out words to Ellen during the show. "Those people" are some of my personal pet peeves. [Side rant beginning] Listen up, people who ruin shows by yelling asshole things out like "Marry me!" and "New York rules!": we all go to shows to watch the performer, not you. While I'm sure in your self-absorbed little head, you are having a personal relationship with the performer and/or are on the verge of "getting discovered" by the performer, the rest of us would prefer to live in reality and enjoy the show without your blatherings. Everyone else: don't laugh at such assholes. It only encourages them. If you laugh, you are guilty by association.[Side rant over].

Anyway, the most important lesson the stage crew told us was that we should dance, preferably while smiling and preferably by doing more than just standing there clapping our hands.....


2. The Dancing.

What we did almost as much as "waiting around" was dancing. But.... it was a forced-everyone-be-happy dancing that I, personally, cannot sustain. Come on. I have like three dance moves that I cannot vary enough to make them last more than 3 minutes. At least, not in the light of a television studio while I'm completely sober. Clearly, other people did not have a problem with "the dancing," however.

I am too self-conscious for a dance marathon that lasts more than 1 song. However, prior to Ellen's appearance in the studio, the DJ played like 6 songs while we were all expected to dance the whole time. I harbor no illusions of being on tv for real, but I don't want my 3 seconds to include me clapping out of beat while doing the frat-guy's overbite. Sigh... "dancing."

Fun for many. Anxiety-provoking for me.

3. The Laughing.

Finally, Ellen appeared around 3:10. She started with her monologue, per usual. And I don't know if it was the giddiness of actually seeing her live but everything she said seemed really funny. The stage crew wasn't even really telling us to laugh, we just were laughing at everything she said. I, too, found myself belting out a dorky guffaw over a few things I may not have laughed at while watching on television at home.

Had we been hypnotized?

This wasn't to say she wasn't funny. She was. As usual. But I also felt a little out of control of my laughter, perhaps because I was in awe that I was actually there.

Anyway, it was a neat experience and if anyone's ever in the Southern California area I would highly recommend trying to get tickets. Ellen is a true entertainer. She's positive and warm and that's something we all need a little more of, I think. Plus, we all walked away with the new Britney Spears CD and this cool grill thingy that's like a better George Foreman grill (or somethin')!

Woop woop, shoutout to Ellen!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ellen's "Meltdown"

Personally, I think Ellen's "meltdown" on her show was blown a bit out of proportion. So she cried about a dog on television. Whoop-dee-doo.

I guess there is nothing of greater importance happening in the world right now. Like, you know, fires and wars and things.

Her tears may, or may not, be reflective of some inner crazy. But what person doesn't have a bit of the crazy? Is there one perfecly well-adjusted human out there? I don't think so. Celebrities and talk show hosts, unfortunately, sometimes have their crazy captured on tv or youtube.

Yesterday, however, I read inklings that Ellen and her partner Portia Di Rossi may be headed for a breakup, and that may have contributed to Ellen's "meltdown."

Upon reading this, my first thoughts were:

a) Just in time for my visit to southern California(*) where I am, actually, going to be a member of the studio audience on the Ellen show, and now have hopes of Ellen discovering me, using me as her rebound affair (**), and inevitably discarding me but not before paying off my student loans.

(b) I had a feeling the "meltdown" was about more than the dog situation. Even if they aren't having marital strife, I bet there's something more going on in Ellen's life that would cause her to "meltdown" on her show.

(c) Seriously though, I don't want them to break up. But, I don't want them to stay together if they aren't happy. But also, whenever famous gay people break up I feel like anti-gays are just waiting in the wings to say "Seeeeeee! Gay relationships never last blah blah blah promiscuous blah blah blah non-monogamous blah blah blah hate hate hate!"

* Because I will be on vacation for approximately 5 days, I will be blogging sporadically. Play nicely amongst yourselves until I return.

** To my girlfriend: Just kiddin'.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Gay Last Supper and Concerned Women for America

Apparently, there's a small (yet predictable) uproar among the conservative community over this picture.

The Concerned Women for America have something to say about it in their article "'Gays' Mock Jesus with Last Supper Take-Off."

There are many entertaining bits in this article, the first being the unnecessary use of quotation mark around "Gays" in the title of their article. Is the CWA implying that the people in the picture are not really gay? Are they mocking the fact that many gay people call themselves "gay" and not "homosexual"? Is the conservative label "homosexual" the only true descriptor and any other label, other than fag, an example of political correctness gone awry?

Inquiring minds want to know.

But that's all a digression from the true humor in the article.

The first quote is this:

"A picture's worth a thousand words," said Matt Barber, Policy Director for Cultural Issues with Concerned Women for America (CWA). "Scripture says that God is not mocked, yet it doesn't stop people from trying. As evidenced by this latest stunt, open ridicule of Christianity is unfortunately very common within much of the homosexual community."

Thanks, Matt. Ladies, gentlemen, let's all listen to what Matt Barber of the Concerned Women for America says women in America should be concerned about.

Does anyone else think it's weird that the policy director of a so-called woman's group is... not a woman?

To be fair, the "vision statement" of the CWA is this:

The vision of CWA is for women and like-minded men, from all walks of life, to come together and restore the family to its traditional purpose and thereby allow each member of the family to realize their God-given potential and be more responsible citizens.

Let's dissect that.

"The vision of CWA is for women and like-minded men...."

You know, I'm all for open-minded men joining "women's causes." Unfortunately, I don't see CWA as a women's cause- or at least not a woman's cause that promotes gender equality.

"...restore the family to its traditional purpose and thereby allow each member of the family to realize their God-given potential and be more responsible citizens."

I see it as an anti-feminist organization that is more concerned with putting women back in their traditional, subordinate-to-men roles in society than anything else. For a man to be part of such an organization is not exactly noble, in my eyes, as his place in the "traditional" family is supreme. Wouldn't it, in fact, be in the interest of men to promote this conception of the "traditional" family? (I don't believe it's in their interest, but that's a blog for another day).

So yeah, I'm more impressed by men who really do care about true equality for women. And, I'm more impressed by men who realize that feminism can benefit both men and women, and that traditional family roles harm and limit both genders.

Alas, Matt continues:

"'Gay' activists disingenuously call Christians 'haters' and 'homophobes' for honoring the Bible, [rant about how the picture makes the Baby Jesus cry]"

Matt, I object. "Gay" activists call some "Christians" haters and homophobes because some "Christians" truly are haters and homophobes. There's nothing disingenuous about that.

And let me repeat, calling some "Christians" bigots is a reaction to fundamentalist "Christian" intolerance. Our intolerance is of fundamentalist "Christian" intolerance of gay people.

Shall we continue?

Matt does:

"We're calling on California's elected officials - Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Governor Schwarzenegger and Senators Feinstein and Boxer - to publicly condemn this unprovoked attack against Christ and His followers."

Nope. There's that pesky separation of Church and State bit, remember? This CWA challenge is meant for our elected, tax-payer funded officials to prove how "Christian" they are and how free speech doesn't really mean free speech and certainly doesn't apply to artistic freedom.

"We further challenge the media to cover this affront to Christianity with the same vigor as recent stories about cartoon depictions of Mohammed and other items offensive to the Muslim community."

Everyone remember the offensive Muslim cartoon incident? It was offensive because in the Muslim faith it is blasphemous to draw Mohammed.

This Gay Last Supper is so offensive to some Christians that the CWA posted multiple links on its site urging viewers to check it out!

In fact, what is most funny about conservative websitse is that they cover gay events and goings-on so comprehensively that they often inform gay people that a popular gay event took place! Want to find out where the "it" party of the season is? See the CWA's website for details!

And, they will take pictures at these events, post them on their websites, and with a tattling tone say "Look here! Everybody look at the gays! Look how immoral, vile, and disgusting they are!" When one can't help but wonder why some Christians would want to look at such immorality in the first place. Seriously. It's like manhunt for the Christian crowd.

Sweet baby Jesus!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Say.... Perez Hilton Can Serve a Purpose

Because some bigots just deserve to be shallowly mocked.

But seriously, while I'm not the hugest Perez fan, I like it when he makes fun of homobigot Ann Coulter. He did so by posting a transcript of an interview with her where she made idiotic comment after idiotic comment.

The following exchange is the *best* part of the interview. Here, she's talking about how many inter-racial couples are together just so they can be inter-racial couples!:

COULTER: No, it’s true. I give all of these speeches at megachurches across America, and the one thing that’s really striking about it is how utterly, completely diverse they are, and completely unself-consciously. You walk past a mixed-race couple in New York, and it’s like they have a chip on their shoulder. They’re just waiting for somebody to say something, as if anybody would. And —

DEUTSCH: I don’t agree with that. I don’t agree with that at all. Maybe you have the chip looking at them. I see a lot of interracial couples, and I don’t see any more or less chips there either way. That’s erroneous.

COULTER: No. In fact, there was an entire “Seinfeld” episode about Elaine and her boyfriend dating because they wanted to be a mixed-race couple, so you’re lying.

DEUTSCH: Oh, because of some “Seinfeld” episode? OK.

Hee hee hee. I guess I missed the memo where Seinfeld is the ultimate authority on social relations.

Shoutout to Grace for sending me the link.

Friday, October 19, 2007

My Belated Coming Out Story

So, I know National Coming Out Day was a while ago. I know I know. I missed it. I do have a bit I'd like to say about it though. Consider this my Coming Out Day Story on gay time. You know.... late.

Unlike many people, I suppose, I did not have a lot of trouble with the whole "being gay" bit. I started getting inklings of being gay sometime around junior high, when other girls were becoming more interested in boys. I just wanted to keep hanging out with my girl friends, playing sports, and playing outside with my boy friends.

(Oh wait, there was that whole innocent crush thing on my babysitter when I was 5. Is that weird?)

Anyway.... I managed to make it through high school without ever having a real boyfriend (or girlfriend). I didn't really want either one- as I wasn't too interested in boys, and wasn't quite ready to admit to being a full-out lezzy. I concerned myself instead with the multitude of sports I played (I know), getting good grades, and wanting to make out with Claire Danes getting into college.

Flash forward to college. As I met real live lesbians, I remembered "that thing" that I had pushed to the back of my mind. Now that I was starting to know lesbians, I was trying to create some sort of safe space to explore this issue further. And by that I mean, like Jane Know, I tried to befriend known lesbians, hoped they would notice me as being one of their own, and then take me into their cool lesbian cocoon and help me emerge a proud lesbian butterfly.

(I carried that too far, didn't I?)

Well, that passive little plan didn't work out as planned. The known lesbians didn't really notice me, or didn't pick up on my gayness. Instead, I learned how to be gay on my own. Or, rather, with a few other close friends who were all coming out in our own ways.

I never had a big internal struggle about being gay. Rather, I accepted it as something that had always been a part of me, and always would be. I was neither particularly ashamed or proud of who I was.

In life, my first real romantic relationships were with women. And, while I was okay with being gay, the people with whom I was involved during my college years were not. Fear, I learned, led to dysfunction. And when things did not work out, I immediately villanized these people for being "too scared," for being mean to me as a "cover," and for letting their fear of being exposed make their life and my life miserable. Fear, of course, is always a wonderful additional to any relationship.

But seriously, looking back with much hindsight, I can see that fear, stemming from societal sexual prejudice, bore much blame for my romantic angst. Where most heterosexual young couples are free to declare their love, to openly go on dates, and to acknowledge the relationship to everyone else- I was not able to be open. I wasn't able to talk about my relationships. I was expected to hide a part of myself from all of my friends and family.

And because the people I was with were ashamed, I was ashamed.

But the weird thing was, many people knew about these secretive relationships anyway. I, of course, told a few people. These people told a few people. Other people just put two and two together. And so on.

And many people simply did not care.

Sure, there were bigots and assholes. But I didn't care about their opinions. Those people weren't my friends or anyone I cared about.

So what I know now, and what I'd tell any young person struggling to come out, is this:

1) Oftentimes, everybody important in your life already knows, at some level, that you are gay.

Coming out is a mere formality to confirm suspicions.

2) If people in your life know you and like you (or love you) already, your gayness will often not change these feelings.

True, there are horror stories of parents disowning their children, and of friends never speaking again. There will probably be a period of time where the person you come out to will have to "digest" your gayness..... but many times your friends and family will not abandon you.

3) Contrary to popular myth, lesbians don't recruit. I tried and tried to get recruited, but it just didn't happen.

In sum, everyone's experience is different. So I want to refrain from making too many generalizations.

Looking back, I have regrets. Most of my regrets are around fear- my fear or someone else's fear that I let control my happiness. Looking back, I know that I can never be with someone again who would insist on hiding our relationship. I learned that a long time ago.

I realize that many people see "open gays" as being in-your-face. But whenever I was made to deny the existence of a relationship to the world, it made that relationship less real.

It made me less real.

Shame on anyone who makes you feel like that.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Right To Life or Right to Be Born?

As you know, Bush recently vetoed legislation that would have expanded the Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to more children- namely for middle class children who do not qualify for Medicaid but whose parents cannot afford private insurance. These are children who are left behind- and, it's an age-old story in this country. If you're super poor you get government benefits. If you're wealthy, you don't need the benefits because you can pay for them on your own. Well, there are a lot of people in-between those two extremes. But that, perhaps, is a story for a different day.

Today, I want to talk about the SCHIP expansion bill in the context of a "pro-life" organization that is against the SCHIP expansion.

The National Right To Life Committee (NRLC), an anti-abortion group, originally opposed this legislation and is now taking a neutral stance. As writes:

"The NRLC tagged the earlier House SCHIP bill with a “key vote” designation, thereby tarnishing the “pro-life” credentials of lawmakers who voted for it. The group is neutral on the new SCHIP bill. Ryan suggested that an NRLC endorsement would be enough to tip the scales in favor of overriding Bush’s veto."

In essence, if the NRLC were to endorse this bill, politicians would feel confident in overturning Bush's veto because they wouldn't have to worry about being labeled "anti-life" or "pro-choice."

Upon reading this article, I wanted to learn more about the NRLC. Was it some kind of contradiction for this pro-life group to oppose legislation that would improve the lives of many children? Observe the mission statement of NRLC:

The ultimate goal of the National Right to Life Committee is to restore legal protection to innocent human life. The primary interest of the National Right to Life Committee and its members has been the abortion controversy; however, it is also concerned with related matters of medical ethics which relate to the right to life issues of euthanasia and infanticide. The Committee does not have a position on issues such as contraception, sex education, capital punishment, and national defense.

I think that many pro-lifers essential argument is this: all life should be born because of the single important fact that a living thing is alive.

Embryos should live because they are alive even if forcing a woman to give birth would cause the woman hardship [or insert pro-choice argument].

Stem cells should live because they are alive even if using them for research would ease suffering of some human beings.

Brain-dead human beings should continue to live because they are alive even if their quality of life is negligible.

You get it.

And so the rights of some not-yet-fully-human living things to be born trumps the rights of living human beings to end that life. Even if the not-yet-fully-human living thing is part of the living human being and depends on the living human being for survival.

Even if the life to be ended, in other words, is not fully human.

Life, you see, is paramount.

Until one is actually alive.

And that is why it is not a contradiction for the NRLC to oppose expanded SCHIP legislation. Their mission is clear: to restore legal protection to innocent human life. The subtext of this mission is also clear: Fetuses and embryos should be considered "innocent human life" so abortion will be illegal.

They are so focused on protecting not-yet-full-humans that they will oppose or remain neutral on legislation that would benefit real, living children. Somehow, legislation guaranteeing health coverage for living children does not fit within the mission of "protection of innocent human life."


Have they forgotten that these sacred fetuses will someday, like Pinocchio, turn into real boys and girls? Or that real boys and girls are born everyday in an underinsured nation?

While they broadly champion for the rights of fetuses and embryos and life and unicorns and rainbows, others are left to make policy decisions in the real world.

Who, really, is completely comfortable with abortion or ending life? And, while it would be ideal if every potential human life was able to grow into a human being because of the single fact that it's a potential human life, isn't it time to stop thinking about "life" in such simple terms? Shouldn't all these fetuses who are born at least have guaranteed health care once they are born?

And more generally, doesn't quality of life matter at all?

I think a name change is in order for the "Pro-Life" Movement.

It could be more accurately called the Pro-Birth Movement.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

So, some of you may be wondering what has happened to the Fannie's Room "Entertaining Marriage Defense Blog" series. After giving it some thought, and after experiences with the first such anti-gay blog, I have decided that it is a project that I am at least going to put on hold.

The reasons are several.

1. I do not believe that blogs promoting intolerance deserve my free publicity.

2. I am confident that I sent a lot of traffic to that-one-blog-that-shall-remain-nameless. (And, I have to take at least some responsibility for them recruiting a new especially creepy anti-gay blogger who joined their group blog after my article. For that, I am sorry.)

3. They keep coming back, I think more to promote their own blog, to fight with me, and to disagree with every blog I write than for any other reason. During the course of some weeks I, and my allies, have been called "perverse," "absurd," "self-centered," "selfish," "vile," "discriminatory," "intolerant" (more on that one later), "shrill," "delusional," "depraved," and "dyke." All these words coming from anti-gay bloggers who purport to use reasoned arguments against gay rights but whose tone often reflects anything but reason. All words coming from anti-gay bloggers whose blog claims that ad hominems are not tolerated but some of whose words are nothing but ad homs.

Thanks, but no thanks.

4. But, more importantly, I think it will be more valuable to showcase allied blogs. Fannie's Room does not have thousands of readers like some blogs do. But I would rather direct traffic to blogs that are more useful, positive, and valuable to you than some of the hateful, illogical, un-Christian, negative, and/or bigoted blogs that are out there.

5. If you all really do want to read anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-woman, and/or racist, blogs I will suggest some search terms for you to google:

"homosexual agenda"
"homosexuality is wrong"
"feminist agenda"
"marriage defense"
"family values"
"men's rights"
"reverse discrimination"

6. The First blog to grace the Allied Blog category is:

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

This blogs exists because, as the blogger (Alvin) writes:

For two years, I have studied "so-called" pro family "research" regarding the gay community and have found a disturbing pattern of deception. In 2007, my book, Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters will be published, detailing all of my findings. The purpose of this blog is to give updates of my work and to show some of my findings.

After reading many of the articles on Holy Bullies, much of the blogger's observations rang true for me- particularly the disturbing pattern of deception among anti-gay activists.

I am grateful that this blogger/author is pointing out and documenting these deceptive practices. I have noticed these deceptions. And I'm sure that many of you will recognize them as well.

Here are some of my favorite deceptions (I don't mean "favorite" in a good way. Also, Holy Bullies does not link to individual articles, so I cannot link directly to them I will provide dates/year if you want to find the articles on the blog):

A. Anti-gay advocates scare people of faith by claiming that gay men have shortened life spans, implicitly or explicitly saying the shortened life span is due to their icky, unhealthy, and immoral sexual behavior that they view as being centered around anal sex.

Noticeably absent from these claims are discussions of lesbian sexual behaviors, health risks of heterosexual anal sex, and the fact that men in general are more likely to transmit STDs to their partners than are women. This means if two men are engaging in sexual activities, then yes, they are more at risk of STDs than if they were having sex with a woman. But also, female sex partners of men are also more at risk for contracting STDs from their male partners than their male partners are from them.

But worse than these omissions, as Alvin's September 6, 2006 article states, anti-gay advocates either rely on faulty research to support their claims or they mis-use and mis-quote scientific studies that supposedly support their claims. Read his blog for more details.

And, may I remind everyone that it's unsafe sex that results in STDs/HIV, not gay sex.

There is a difference.

B. Anti-gay advocates dehumanize and villianize gay people.

"In essence, the anti-gay industry seeks to strip gays and lesbians of their humanity in the eyes of the public. To them, it is not enough to declare that homosexuality is against God’s will. These groups manufacture illusions of cabals and invisible enemies; nameless and faceless gay legions out to “destroy” American values and morals.

To further this incorrect notion, members of the anti-gay industry often use sound bites that are repeated until they become part of the verbal lexicon. They skillfully employ phrases that covertly push the idea that gays are outside of the mainstream." [from September 9, 2006 post]

Sound familiar my fellow "SSM"ers and "homosexualists"?

C. Ex-gay groups claim that they only want to introduce change to those who have a problem with their homosexuality, but their true goal is to roll back and eliminate protections for LGBT persons.

Ex-gays are a crucial part of the "homosexuality is not a fixed trait and therefore homosexuals do not deserve protections" movement. To spell it out, that some people are supposedly "ex-gay" supposedly proves that people choose to be gay.

Personally, I find the nature v. nruture debate to be an irrelevant, oversimplified, and distracting false dichotomy. I think sexual identity is more of a spectrum, more fluid, than many of those who debate this issue acknowledge. And just because some people claim that they were once gay but no longer are, says nothing about whether I- or many others- can somehow change our sexual identities.

D. Anti-Discrimination laws are an infringement on religious freedom.

The gist of this gem is that anti-gay advocates are scaring Christians into being anti-gay by saying that if anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws are passed then Christians will be arrested for speaking out against gay people.

Hate crimes laws punish behavior- not speech or thought- as I previously wrote. The claim that hate crimes laws will repress religious speech is a scare tactic used by the religious right. It is also a way to turn the tables and make Christians, instead of gay people, out to be the true victims of intolerance and hate.

And like I have said before, unless you belong to the Church of Kick Some Faggoty Ass, you and your religious freedom have nothing to worry about.

But this burning question remains:

When will we start being able to put anti-gay activists, specifically some bloggers, under citizen's arrest??

I very much look forward to that day!

In sum, the "gay laws infringe on religious freedom" argument is akin to the "gay people are intolerant for not tolerating intolerance of gay people" argument. See, some anti-gay advocates forget, or perhaps don't realize, that gay rights advocates' criticisms of anti-gay advocates is a reaction to intolerance of gay people. The gay rights movement did not just spring forth from a vaccum. It didn't begin as a result of equality, justice, and tolerance for gay people. No. It is a response to widespread intolerance, bigotry, and stigmatization of gay people. Anti-gay advocates, including some Christians, are advocating for an unequal society. And, they want to perpetuate privileges, rights, and benefits that belong to only some citizens. Our intolerance of such thinking, unlike their intolerance, is therefore just and warranted.

In other words, they started it. And we are going to finish it.

Check out Holy Bullies to see Alvin point out some more deceptions and dishonest tactics.

Perhaps my only addition to the blogger's ideas is that religious folks aren't the only ones who make distortions and lie about gay people. While it seems as though most people base their intolerance of gays on their religious beliefs, some base their intolerance on their beliefs that gay sex is icky, that gay and lesbian relationships/families are threatening to other families, that gay people can change, and/or other non-religious arguments.

Alvin says:

"What I am saying through my book and my blog is that distortions and lies in the name of God are still distortions and lies. And anyone who knowingly uses them and can still refer to themselves as a person of faith needs to examine themselves."

I would expand this to say: distortions and lies in the name of "saving the family," "saving the children," or other secular non-arguments are still distortions and lies. And those who knowingly use them and can still refer to themselves as only sharing concern for society need to examine themselves.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Minute for the Environment?

Today is Blog Action Day. The idea is for many bloggers to write on the same topic for one day. Today's topic is The Environment.

For a few weeks now, I have been thinking about what I should write about today.
The Environment is not my specialty. And, it's not a lot of blogger's specialty. So what is the good of a bunch of people writing about things that are not their specialty? Is it useful? How will this contribute to "saving the world"?

Heck, when those Greenpeace people on the streets ask me if I have a minute for the environment, I always say no. Or ignore them.

(They are annoying).

So, I thought that maybe it would be more useful and helpful if I posted some links to environmental websites so other people would maybe learn some things. And so I would read these sites and learn some things.

Many of us, perhaps, have vague ideas about global warming, environmental destruction, and recycling. Some of us do the little things that we hear add up when lots of people do them like turning the water off when we brush our teeth, utilizing public transportation, and leaving our cell phone charges unplugged when not in use.

What is frustrating to me, however, is that I feel as though we can all do these little things, but what about the big things? What about companies who pollute? What about agri-business that destroys the enviroment? What about the oil companies and our reliance on fossil fuels?

What can we, as little people, do about these huge contributors to environmental change? Why should we all care about The Environment? Why should we care if we don't see it affecting us in the near future? Are activists being unnecessarily alarmist?

So, readers, here is my vow to better inform myself about these issues. Here is my vow to care more about the environment. Here is my vow, in other words, to take a metaphorical minute for the environment.

I am open to suggestions...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Critical Queer Theory

When I was in law school, I had the fortune of attending a school that offered a course in Critical Legal Theory (and its related off-shoots Critical Race Theory and Feminist Jurisprudence).

Since I am more of a practical lawyer, in that I practice rather than teach, than a theory-based lawyer I do not consider myself an expert in this area. That being said, I have taken some courses, was advised by a Critical Legal Theorist, and I continue to read acacdemic works in these areas. That also being said, because I am not a theorist in the proverbial Ivory Tower of academia I believe that I am an expert (or becoming one) in how these theories relate to people out in the real world.

Critical Legal Theory greatly appealed to me in law school as it gave me a framework to question our legal structure and laws. Women, minorities, and others who are not among privileged classes in this country know intuitively that things in our judicial, legislative, and political systems are amiss. It is more difficult, however, for people to explain why they think or feel this way.

The basic idea behind Critical Legal Theory is this:

"That logic and structure attributed to the law grow out of the power relationships of the society. The law exists to support the interests of the party or class that forms it and is merely a collection of beliefs and prejudices that legitimize the injustices of society. The wealthy and the powerful use the law as an instrument for oppression in order to maintain their place in hierarchy."

In context, this theory holds true from the days of our nation's founding. For instance:

The law exists to support the interests of the party or class that forms it.

During the colonial period a man took absolute possession of his wife's property, estate, and income. Clearly, these laws supported the interests of men, who created and passed these laws. It gave men absolute financial control over their wives, who were considered their property and ensured that women remained a lower class than men.

The wealthy and the powerful use the law as an instrument of oppression in order to maintain their place in heirarchy.

This premise was evident in voting laws during colonial times when only land-owning (white) men were allowed to vote. These laws ensured that relatively wealthy men could maintain and pass laws that benefited them (as opposed to non-wealthy men, all women, and non-white men).

Knowing this, I find it difficult to accept the authority of "the law." Judges base their opinions on case law, legislation, precedent, and stare decisis. The motto of our legal system is to not disturb prior decisions- to leave settled law alone. See how the very motto of our legal system ensures that heirarchies remain in place? And, does anyone else find this motto disturbing in light of our nation's history of discriminating against certain groups?

Is it such a crazy or radical [insert pejorative/feminist/communist] notion that one could find this history as it relates to current events disturbing?

Knowing that white men have been voting in this country for a full 225 years, black men 130 years (in theory, of course), and all women a mere 80, can we fully expect that what we call "the law" to be race and gender neutral now?

Basically, everyone in this country needs to realize that "the law" is neither neutral, blind, nor equal. I am especially ashamed of attorneys who pretend that it is all of these things. They should know better. Unfortunately, law school is not set up to question the very foundations of our legal system. And, owing much thanks to the Socratic method and case method, students are often too scared to question the system.

And often, I find that those who blindly accept the authority of "the law," who deny the premises of Critical Legal Theory, to be the ones who believe they are benefitting from the system. Such people are often also found decrying feminism under the pretext that it "destroys the family" but really because it challenges the historical male-dominant power structure. They can also be found opposing affirmative action because "it's discrimination against white people" but really because it challenges the notion that while all white people belong in higher education it doesn't matter that many people of color don't have access.

And too often in debates and policy discussions, I find that both sides too easily accept "the law" as the final authority on an issue. They recite to each other what the law is, rather than exploring why the law is what it is.

All this being said, I take my oath to uphold the US Constitution seriously. Perhaps more seriously than those who finagle interpretations of the Constitution that reinforce current power structures. I know that the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution says that "no state shall deny to any person.... within its jurisdiction the equal protection of laws." I also know that states do deny some people within its jurisdiction the equal protection of laws. I know that states deny equal protection to some groups of persons because of lawyers and politicians and other groups who seek to reinforce existing power structures.

Judges who interpret laws and develop and use Constitutional decisions do it too.

Justices can contrive a "logical" legal argument to suit any predetermined outcome based on their own personal beliefs. If anyone doesn't believe that then I must ask if they care whether a Democrat or Republican is in office when there's a vacancy on the Supreme Court. If anyone doesn't believe that I ask them to predict with 100% accuracy the outcome of every court case.

We should never forget that judges are human and have their own biases, beliefs, and opinions that they bring to every case. No one should pretend that they are neutral decision robots.

On a related note, I find it interesting when conservatives decry "activist judges" (who only seem to be "activist" when making progressive or liberal decisions). These people don't understand that the judicial branch is the one branch of government designed to keep the tyranny of the majority in check. It is the one branch of government that is supposed to protect the rights of minorities. Yet, when it does its job, conservatives denounce the courts for being "un-democratic."

Thinking about Critical Legal Theory in the context of race helped produce the area of study called Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT challenges racial oppression in non-traditional ways, starting from the premise that racism is so ingrained in our culture that it looks ordinary and natural to the persons in the culture (Delgado, R. and Jean Stefancic, Critical Race Theory, page xvi.). Therefore, our civil rights laws only address the most overt and obvious forms while ignoring the racism we do not perceive. To eradicate racism, then, we have to utilize other forms of political action- action through the Executive branch, through court decisions, and through mass mobilization and demonstrations.

Currently, as I previously wrote, I see protests in conjunction with the Jena 6 case to be a current attempt to raise awareness of racial injustice in the legal system that many people in this country do not see.

This theory, and yes I do realize anti-gay advocates will hate this analogy, is also applicable to the gay rights movement.

Sexual prejudice is so ingrained in our culture that many people don't see it. They don't see it in themselves and they don't see it in other people. Discrimination laws address only the most overt and obvious forms while ignoring the prejudices that some (many?) do not perceive.

When the leading Democratic contenders say that they will support civil unions "but just aren't there yet" with calling it marriage, and that is considered the "liberal" and "accepting" position, we have a problem.

When so-called "marriage defenders" are against hate crimes legislation, same-sex marriage, and adoption for gay couples yet do not consider themselves "bigots," we have a problem.

In short, many people today don't yet get how "marriage defense" is discriminatory to gay people. They don't get how the denial of rights, benefits, and protections to a group of people is bigotry. Because they rationalize it away under the pretext of "saving" something. To them, their abstract and intangible goal of "saving children/defending marriage/preventing the collapse of civilization" by advocating for constitutional amendments to define marriage, advocating for DOMA, and celebrating judicial opinions that deny marital benefits to same-sex families looks natural and ordinary to them. Sexual prejudice is so ingrained in our culture that some of these people refuse to see, or are unable to see, their thoughts and actions for what they are. Bigotry.

It is bigotry (and yes I do have to explain it to some people), because these Don Quixotes are defending marriage and family by advocating for a legal system that causes actual harm to many families. You know, the gay ones. Meanwhile, they do not advocate for laws and policies that would, actually, save marriage/family.

It is bigotry because they ignore all of the ways in which we are similar to them and seek to deny us rights based on the one way in which we are different, and then they accuse us of "identity politics." (Is it shocking to them that a group that is discriminated against would join together and demand equal rights?)

In short, they are using the legal system to maintain a power structure that places heterosexual families at the top.

Meanwhile, we seek to use the legal system to say that our families are equal to theirs, and they accuse us asking for "special rights."

We have a problem because, as Pam Spaulding says, "bigot" is a "radioactive word" and "nothing shuts down the conversation or draws a line in the sand faster."

It's true, of course. No one wants to be labeled a bigot. The B Word brings up connotations of white hoods, lynchings, and invidious racial discrimination.

People don't want to be associated with that word, because they can't equate their current thoughts and actions with those of the people that history has judged to be bigoted and wrong.

And so, as Pam mentions when Michael Richards repeatedly called a black audience member the n-word, he later explained:

"I'm not a racist. That's what's so insane about this," Richards said, his tone becoming angry and frustrated as he defended himself.

By referring to this incident, Pam demonstrates the great lengths some people will go to avoid being labeled a "bigot" even though their words and actions show nothing but bigotry.

It's okay, in other words, to act and think like a bigot... as long as you aren't called out on it. It's okay to hold beliefs that seem normal to you, as long as other people don't call these beliefs bigoted.

So here, I'm torn.

It isn't helpful these days to "draw a line in the sand" by using the B Word. It stops a discussion. It stops dialogue.

But, how else do you make people realize that they are bigots without calling them the B Word? How else do you make them see that history will prove them wrong, too?

I think that people who act like bigots should be called out on it. If they're going to publicly advocate for laws that harm my loved ones, my family, my community, and myself they should stand behind their bold words and accept the, in comparison, non-harmful fact that some people are going to call them bigots.

We must make people aware of why they are bigots. When looking at new and old legislation and opinions, we must look through the lens of Critical Legal Theory. Because, in a society where sexual prejudice is entrenched, bigoted thoughts and behavior can appear normal to the holders of bigoted beliefs.

And, to remain silent in the face of bigotry is to condone it. When all anti-gay advocates truly have to fear is the word "bigot" and what we have to fear is so much more..... I find it difficult to conjure sympathy for them.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Funny Women?!

Whaddya know, women can be funny, after all! recently ran a story about 14 funny women. I thought they assembled a pretty good list. I knew of most of the women included and, indeed, I agreed that they were funny.

For instance, Tina Fey: I particularly admire her for being succcessful on the traditionally male-dominated Saturday Night Live. Sarah Silverman: I admire her for being funny in a smart, political way. Unfortunately, I think many people miss the point of her humor and/or are turned off by her language, and sometimes crassness. Margaret Cho: probably my favorite comedian, because she's unapologetically political in her routines.

Which brings me to one comedian noticeably missing from MSN's list: Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen is probably 1b on my top comedian list. I appreciate how she can be funny without using vulgarity or resorting to trusty old (unfunny) sex/gender stereotype jokes in her routines. At the same time, Margaret Cho is 1a and Ellen is 1b on my list for the mere fact that Ellen is rarely political in her comedy. She rarely talks about the gay issue and as she says in her Here and Now routine, if she doesn't throw in an obligatory gay joke people are like 'She didn't do anything gay! She's not our leader, what happened to our leader!?"

I can respect that she may not want to be "the gay leader." But the fact of the matter is that, by virtue of being an early out-of-the-closet lesbian in Hollywood she is sort of our leader by default whether she wants to be or not. At the same time, I think that maybe she's making a conscience choice to be a leader not by making gay jokes and gay issues her specialty, but by showing that a gay person can be a successful entertainer/comedian in her own right. That, even though she is gay, she is not defined by her sexual orientation and therefore, her show can appeal to a mass audience.

I think that those who normalize gay people are just as important as gay people who are out front challenging and broadening middle-America's notions of "family," "morality," and marriage.

But that's all a digression from my main points: Humor is a subjective experience. Women can be funny, just as men can be funny. I find humor in cleverness, intilligence, and wit as opposed to slapstick comedy or "jokes" about sex or gender/sex stereotypes.

To illustrate, when Ellen begins her Here and Now comedy routine in front of a packed auditorium in this way:

"... yet, despite our differences, we're here and we all have one thing in common....... We're all gay."

In the context of a routine where everyone in the audience knows the comedian is an open lesbian, and where the audience is clearly a mix of gay and straight, she is playing on possible heterosexual fears of other people thinking they are gay because they are at an Ellen show.

I think it's funny because it creates a socially awkward moment where, as Ellen continues:

"Some people are out there thinking, 'Wait a minute, I'M not GAY! Do people think I'm gay because I'm here? I'm not gay.... Well... I have thought about it, does that mean I'm gay?! Is that how they get us?!"

That use of humor to point out social awkwardness and irrational fears, to me, is more funny than throwing a pie in someone's face.

For instance, when I was a kid my dad used to make us watch The Three Stooges. He would be cackling away as Larry, Moe, and Curly poked each other in the eyes, hit each other with frying pans, and made weird noises. Yet I, as a 5-year-old even, never thought this was funny. In fact, you could say I was bored.

Now, to preemptively defend man-hating charges, I'm going to say: I don't hate men. But that being said, I don't find a lot of male comedians' humor funny. Again, this is a personal opinion. So it's futile to try to change my mind. The men I do find funny, are men who are smart, political, and witty. Like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Their jokes don't revolve around getting laid, trying to get laid, or using their body for slapstick. In sum, I guess you could say I'm looking for the same thing in men as I am in women. As far as comedians go anyway.

So, I guess what I find entertaining is Christopher Hitchens provocative piece where he states "Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny? Please do not pretend not to know what I am talking about." And, even though humor is a highly subjective experience, he presents the proposition that women are not funny as a fact universally acknowledged by the human race.

To be fair, he presents men as easily-amused imbeciles who "will laugh at almost anything, often precisely because it is- or they are- extremely stupid."

Using Hitchen's logic, women aren't funny because they don't laugh at the things men laugh at (that is, at everything), yet men are funny because they will laugh at anything, even if it's stupid. A questionable line of logic there to make such sweeping generalizations about both genders, (no to mention that he uses what males find funny as the baseline for "normal" funny-ness and sense of humor).

I get it, though. He's making fun of both genders. It is my un-funny femaled opinion, however, that Hitchen's article is not funny. I find gender stereotypes to be more harmful to both men and women, than "funny." Yet what kicked me off the balance beam were these statements:

"There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there."

Really, are scientists studying this? Is there objective data available for perusal?

"Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three. When Roseanne stands up and tells biker jokes and invites people who don't dig her shtick to suck her dick—know what I am saying? And the Sapphic faction may have its own reasons for wanting what I want—the sweet surrender of female laughter. While Jewish humor, boiling as it is with angst and self-deprecation, is almost masculine by definition."

[ignoring demeaning, offensive use of "dyke" by straight guy] In other words, fat women, dykes, and Jewish women aren't "real" women. They're man-like.

But more, Hitchen's theory goes that women aren't funny because they must concern themselve with the serious business of birthing. Men are funny because they are simultaneously in awe of and terrified of the fact that women can give birth and they cannot. And that is why men use humor and why they are funny:

"Men have to pretend, to themselves as well as to women, that they are not the servants and supplicants."

So, women are really the ones in control and men are scared of this, so they joke about it. Ah yes, a new humorous take on gender power structures.

If this piece is meant for both men and women to laugh at, I'm not laughing. But I suppose Hitchens would expect that since I'm a woman, or maybe he wouldn't expect that since I'm a dyke? Humor is subjective but perhaps, to use an Ellen joke, he "doesn't know how to kid properly. 'Cuz we should both be laughing."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

An Unbeatable(?) Battle with Allergies... Oh yeah, and SCHIP

So, I have been engaged in a little battle with allergies for about 4 years or so. This battle has progressively gotten worse with time. (I'm not winning). My symptoms range from merely itchy eyes (on good days) to itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, itchy ears, and a rash (on bad days). Bad days happen about 1-2 times a week.

Neat. I know.

This blog is for fellow allergy sufferers, future sufferers, and those who must deal with people with allergies on a semi-regular basis.

I also know what some of you are thinking. It's just allergies. Deal with it. Well, that's what I used to think anyway.

Anyway, here is everything I know about allergies. I'm not a medical professional, but I do have firsthand experience, and that counts for something, right?

1. On bad or average days, your nose will be itchy and runny. Note to other people: I don't want anything near my nose that doesn't have to be. This includes other people's hair, my hair, strong perfume/cologne, and animals. On bad days it already feels like an invisible feather is incessantly tickling my nose, I don't need anymore irritation.

2. Acupuncture may or may not work. I tried it a total of 3 times. My allergies improved for about a week but then came roaring back. My hunch is that acupuncture didn't do anything and the easing of my symptoms was just the natural cycle of my allergies.

3. I have segregated my allergy medications from least to most potent and take them accordingly on good to bad days. For instance, homeopathic medicine eases mild symptoms and seems to have the least side effects. Benadryl gets rid of more severe symptoms but makes me tired within an hour. My prescription medication gets rid of the most severe symptoms but completely wipes me out.

Anyway, I'm seeing an allergist in the near future. Yeah, it's "just" allergies and many people have much worse conditions. But allergies really do diminish a person's quality of life. On the worst days, I feel pretty miserable and crabby.

And that's today's non-political rant.

Oh yeah, and Bush vetoed a Congressionally-approved expansion of the children's health insurance program.

Leave no child behind, indeed!

Anyone else sick of people who claim to care about children yet whose actions and words show otherwise?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Pro-Active Advice for Marriage Defenders!

[Note: sarcasm and parody below]

The sole purpose of marriage is for procreation and child-rearing. Specifically, marriage is between a man and a woman for the purpose of rearing children with both a mommy and daddy. Always has been, always will be.

Now, while allowing gay people into this institution will diminish this purpose of marriage, marriage defenders must take note that gay people aren't allowed to marry now, yet divorce rates and out-of-wedlock birthrates are sky high! With all this attention and focus fighting the homosexual lobby and trying to keep homosexuals out of marriage while not trying to change laws, constitutions, and behaviors that would affect heterosexual couples, many people have forgotten that marriage defenders can take actual steps to strengthen marriage! Yes, ladies and gents, laws can be created and constitutional amendments can be passed to help heterosexuals strengthen marriage!!

And thus, a proposal is born.....

If it's true that marriage exists solely for procreation and child-rearin', I'm confident that marriage defenders will agree with the following proposal:

*clears throat*

1. Heterosexual couples, upon deciding that they want to live the rest of their lives together, will go get a civil union license from the county clerk.

2. The county clerk will ask them: "Are you willing and able to procreate?"

3. If the answer is yes, the couple will state on their civil union license exactly how many children they plan on having and when they plan on having these children. Then, the couple will receive a civil union license. A civil union license represents a loving committment that two people have to sharing a life together.

4. If it turns out that the married couple does not, or finds out they cannot, have children, the marriage will remain a civil union for the duration of the relationship.

5. If the couple indicated on their civil union license that they planned on having children, the couple may apply for and shall receive a marriage license when the woman becomes pregnant. Note that both a civil union license and a marriage license will entitle couples to receive legal benefits, privileges, and responsibilities of marriage. The words are just different.

6. If a married woman's pregnancy does not result in a live birth, the marital relationship will automatically, by law, convert back to a civil union.

7. Since marriage serves the important state interest of rearing children with both a mother and a father, the marriage will be valid up until the final and youngest child turns 18. At this point, all important childrearing duties having been accomplished, the marriage will automatically convert back to a civil union. Similarly, it should be noted that if a child dies before the age of 18, the marriage will also convert back to a civil union unless another minor child is present.

8. During a marriage, divorce will not be permitted. Couples with children who merely "fall out of love" must remain married until all children reach adulthood. In other words, there's no such thing as no-fault divorce. This provision will ensure that all children are reared by both a father and a mother up until the age of adulthood. This provision will also enable heterosexual families to take concrete steps to ensure the survival of this basic traditional family structure, and civilization as a whole, really.

Marriage is not about love, after all. It's about the children. It's about ensuring that all children have a mommy and a daddy. Because, frankly, we believe the children are our future. We should teach them well and, with both a mother and a father present, let them lead the way. I say, we should show them all the beauty they possess inside themselves (thanks to those fathers and mothers) to make it easier.

*Ahem* moving on....

9. Adultery will be outlawed, as adultery may result in out-of-wedlock births and the destruction of the family unit. Criminals will be branded as marriage destroyers and will be fined or imprisoned for each criminal act. Further, if a non-married man impregnates a woman outside of the marital relationship, the man and the women he impregnated must marry. This provision will ensure that all children are raised by a father. Oh yeah, and a mother.

10. The following heterosexual couples may, under no circumstances, receive a marriage license: elderly couples, any couple where the woman is post-menopausal, or couples where one or both spouse is sterile. Couples choosing not to have children, however, may choose to have children later. If so, upon the woman's pregnancy, the civil unionized couple may apply for a marriage license.

11. Now, I know what some of you may be thinking. Why call these relationships different names if they confer the exact same legal privileges, benefits, and responsibilities? Just remember: it's about how the sole purpose of marriage is procreation and child-rearing. Sure, couples who do not or cannot have children may not like having their relationship referred to as a mere "civil union." They should be convinced, however, that separate is equal. It's not that families with children are better than families without children, it's just that families with children are better than families without children. See, it is essential to make familial distinctions based on procreation. People are too confused now with they way things are.

Bonus Steps (to be decided by individual states):

A. Since marriage has little to do with love, parents and family will be especially encouraged to arrange marriages for their children. States may decide to make arranged marriages a requirement.

B. States are encouraged to pass constitutional amendments to ban out-of-wedlock childbirth. Children born outside of the sacred marital institution have no guarantee that they will be raised by a mommy and a daddy. Frankly, we just don't know if the poor bastards will grow up to be happy, normal, or meaningful contributors to society.

C. Eventually, this social engineering bill will eliminate the need for adoption. As babies who are adopted aren't really part of the traditional family model, states may decide to outlaw adoption. This ban will ensure that all children are raised by their biological mother and father. This ban recognizes the fact that parents are immune to death while they have minor children. Moreover, children in need of adoption (up until the time adoption isn't needed anymore, of course) shall be placed in two-parent families that are headed by a husband and wife. This provision applies even if there are no such families within the child's own family. For, it is better that the child be raised by a mother-father stranger than it is for the child to be raised by a single parent who is a relative.

D. Sex outside of the marital relationship shall be discouraged as it may result in a pregnancy. States can be creative here. For instance, some may choose to ban non-marital or pre-marital sex and impose penalties on offenders (ie- imprisonment, fines, creation of "sexual offender" lists). Some states can recognize the reality that some people are going to have sex even if they're not married. These states may mandate birth control of sterilization for all men and/or women.

Note that this proposal doesn't mention gay people. The "gay people will destroy families" red herring is thus avoided. In sum, I have created a more logical and practical way for marriage defenders to ensure the success of the marital institution than the passive "don't let gays in and we just keep schleppin' along doin' what we're doin" proposal they currently espouse. I am confident that staunch marriage defenders, if they are truly concerned about the breakdown of the family unit, will agree with this proposal. Convincing the rest of America, ahem, may be another matter. But I wish them the best of luck.

For, now, they can actually take action to better their unions instead of being scared about all the bad things that may or may not happen to families as a result of gay marriage. After all, it seems more fruitful to pass legislation directly affecting the behavior of heterosexuals, who comprise roughly 90% of the population, in relationships than it would be to pass legislation affecting gay people- whose effect on marriage is negligible. And then, once marriage defenders and heterosexuals get their own houses and marriages in order, we can revisit the gay issue.

"Marriage Defenders", contact your Congresspersons now. I've already done the homework for you.

And just remember, Whoa-ooh-whoa what's love got to do, got to do with it?

Monday, October 1, 2007

New Jersey, Lesbian 4: Lessons

I read of this case a few weeks back in one of the gay publications here in Chicago. I didn't blog about it then. (More on that later). As real life called, and other news items caught my interest, I kind of forgot about it. While writing about the Jena 6, however, I remembered the story I read of 4 black non-heterosexual women in New Jersey where something similar was going down.

So, I turned to the internet.

I remembered that some were calling them the "New Jersey 4" or the "Lesbian 4." I googled that term. Amid the search results was information about the New Jersey 4-H club, New Jersey Route 4, and some New Jersey hockey scores.

Compare that to a google search for the Jena 6.

After having said that, I'm going to resist comparing the acts of violence in this case to the acts of violence in the Jena 6 case.

I wasn't there. I don't know what happened.

Accounts of the facts vary from one article to the next.

Here is my nutshell summarization:

A group of 7 women were walking home in the early morning hours in New York City. They walked by a man who, according to them, made sexual advances on one of them. The women claimed that after they told the man they weren't interested, he began calling them "fucking dykes" and that he claimed "I'll fuck you straight, sweetheart!" The man admitted that one of them was "slightly pretty," that he called one of them an "elephant," and told another that she looked "like a man." The women and the man began fighting each other (there are conflicting accounts as to who started it). Some men on the street joined in the fight. And, the man ended up being stabbed. Surveillance cameras captured some of this incident, including pictures of the fight- where it shows the man choking one of the women and holding clumps of her hair. One of the women was carrying a knife, yet DNA evidence was never entered into evidence at her trial. The knife-wielding woman is 4'11" and weighs 95 pounds.

The women were arrested. 4 of them went to trial. None of them had prior criminal records. They received sentences of between 3.5 and 11 years in prison.

Mainstream media coverage of this incident is telling.

1. Mainstream Media Accounts Largely Assume That the Women Were Guilty, Violent, and Not Acting in Self-Defense.

I found many (most?) mainstream media accounts, written by alleged "professional" reporters who were also not there that day, to be infuriating.

One particular article by someone named Laura Italiano from The New York Post had the misleading and dramatic headline: "Attack of the Killer Lesbians." Within the article, the reporter describes the women as "bloodthirsty young lesbians" and reports that the man only wanted to say "hi" to one of the women who was (only) "slightly pretty." The reporter presents the "victim's" side as fact and as though his side has a neutral point of view. For instance, she writes "One of them was 'slightly pretty,'" so the freelance film director decided to say hi." This sentence starts the article. Notice how it doesn't end with a "according to the man" or "he claims."

Meanwhile, she presents the women's side as their "claim." For instance, the reporter writes, "[the victim] began calling them 'f----ing dykes,' they say." Yes, they do say, don't they? Clearly, the implication goes, that is just their dishonest? side of the story.

Again, I wasn't there. I don't know what happened. But this reporter wasn't there either, yet she has presented a one-sided story (to say the least).

The New York Post, it seems, cares more about coming up with dramatic and irresponsible headlines than they do about getting to the bottom of a case or presenting a neutral story.

What is telling to me is that most mainstream media accounts assume that the women violently attacked the man without cause, or without just cause. Even if the man made homophobic comments, the implications go, this is no excuse to attack him. For, lesbians are not "real" women, and therefore, they do not feel threatened or scared of men in the same way that straight women can and are. Also, the man was making disapproving comments of the women's sexual/gender identities-- this disapproval is something he shares with many Americans. His comments, therefore, are justified in their eyes, and as some heterosexuals cannot or do not see how such comments are threatening, the comments provide no valid reason for the women to "defend" themselves.

Secondly, when we hear of women being attacked or threatened in the news, the women are usually the ones who end up in the hospital. Women are usually the victims. And because these women put a man in the hospital, it is easy for people to assume that the women must have just jumped him without good reason. If the man wanted to attack the women or rape them, he just would have. See, many people assume that women are incapable of successully defending themselves against a man who threatens or attacks them.


2. The Media Paints "Other" People As Inherently Violent

As a blogger who considers herself politically aware, I am somewhat ashamed that I didn't write about this story earlier. But as with the Jena 6 situation, I wanted to read more about the case. What I found, however, was that there aren't many prominent articles about this. And, disturbingly, in most mainstream media articles, the headline includes the word "Lesbian." This trend of pointing out that a perpetrator is somehow "other" (Than white? Than heterosexual?) is all too common in media coverage of violent events. When was the last time a white heterosexual assaulted someone with subsequent headlines stating "White Avowed Hetero Kicks Someone's Ass"?

Yes, lesson #2, "others" are inherently violent. When white people kill, it's because they're mentally ill or something. And it's not a reflection on their entire race or gender.

3. Blogs and Alternative Media Remain Essential

It is cases like these where, once again, I appreciate alternative media and the blogosphere. This blogger's take on the situation counters the mainstream view and gives insight into what may have happened at the trial. This is why blogs are relevant and essential. Most news reports are biased. Most blogs are biased. Most bloggers, me included, write from their own perspective and worldview. But at least my worldview is based on my own sense of morality, and my point of view isn't dicated by corporate media interests. In other words, when I write articles I'm not scared of offending The Man.

The blogosphere brings democracy and greater participation to current events. People of all political stripes lambast the "MSM" (mainstream media) for being too liberal/conservative. Blogs give people the ability to do more than bitch about these biases, but to write about them, expose them, and offer their own takes on what's happening in the world. Isn't that all any article is, really- Somebody's take on a situation? Or, somebody's edited take on a situation that won't offend corporate interests that control the media?

4.'s my last lesson- my humble take on the New Jersey 4:

To me, the (scarce) coverage and the case reeks of a situation where the word of 7 women mean less than the word of 1 man. Reading the blog about the trial, it is easy for me, as a lesbian attorney, to imagine that sexism/homophobia really happening. It is still pretty much a man's court. Less so than in the past. But I can imagine many courtrooms being hostile to black women who "look like men."

It is analagous to Sharia where a woman who has been raped needs 4 male witnesses to prove that a rape occurred. The basic idea is that a man's word is somehow more "honest," more valid, than a woman's.

Yet, this case is complicated by the intersection of race, gender, class, and sexuality. As black women who identify as something other than heterosexual, they face discrimination and oppression on several levels. Perhaps, their word as multiple "other" women- black, non-straight, and poor women means even less than the word of women who are white, or heterosexual, or wealthy/middle-class.

As Frances from Queer Woman of Color blog writes:

Look I don't think gays suffer more that [people of color] or that [people of color] suffer more than white women or that women in general suffer more than trans folks or anything like that. But I do think when different minority classifications get combined the likelihood of something being written off faster is likely.

Part of me wants this case to explode, like Jena 6 has. Yet part of me fears these women becoming the case du jour of the homobigot crowd who will claim that this is proof positive that lesbians are violent, sick, and hate men. I can see them invoking the New Jersey 4 as a scare tactic that gay people are getting too powerful. And that it's not the bigots who are full of hate, but gay people who are full of hate. The male so-called victim is already accusing these women of committing a hate crime against him (for being a man) using the age-old stereotype that all lesbians hate men.

And then..... part of me wants to admonish the gay community for ignoring our own. How about less drunk pride parading and more social protesting, eh?

Spread the word.